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Healthcare email marketing: How to choose subject lines that work

18/10/16 07:30
COUCH Medcomms



There are many ways to get ahead in healthcare email marketing. However for this post, we’d like to focus on one single factor: subject lines.

They’re the ‘smallest’ piece, but are by no means the least important factor. In fact, without a good subject line the rest of your email is worthless – simply because it won’t be opened! Understanding what makes a good subject line, however, is a tad more complicated than knowing how to write a catchy sound byte or slogan. Let’s face it, your recipients are more pressed for time and bombarded by other emails. So what, then, will make yours stand out?

Addressing ‘pain points’ with questions

Before you even think about emailing a group of people, you should know who they are – and therefore what they want or what could be missing from their lives. These needs are ‘pain points’.

If you’re emailing doctors who have a high percentage of elderly patients, for example, their pain point may be a lack of cost-effective treatments for heart disease. The simple method would be to declare “I have the solution to your problem!”, but in actual fact human beings are much more likely to respond to questions which allow them to recognise the problem first. Therefore, “Do you have trouble finding cost-effective treatments for heart disease?” would be a more successful subject line, and result in more recipients clicking into your main message.


A study by Experian found that personalised subject lines are six times more likely to cause the email to be opened. The science at work here is obvious: a person’s name is one of that person’s most familiar thoughts, so the mention of it will always trigger a response. Whether it’s ego or something else, it works nonetheless!

And the good news is that no rocket science is needed to include a name. “DR JONES: Do you have trouble finding cost-effective treatments for heart disease?”

The warmth of feeling special

This ties in with personalisation, but extends to the product or services you are offering. In other words, how exclusive is this product or service? Will your recipient feel like a member of a select group if they get their hands on it?

Of course, healthcare email marketing requires more tact than, say, advertising for a TV magazine (which would be more along the lines of “Hurry! Don’t miss out!” or “Only a few left! Grab yours today!”). But the end result is that, hopefully, your recipients feel as if you are speaking directly to them.

Yet being part of an elite group is much more than that. Putting forward your email as a ‘secret’ in some way appeals to both the recipient’s ego and their sense of belonging – as well as being a reassurance that they’re recognised and respected, and therefore included. When someone experiences the warmth of feeling special, they’re much more likely to give up their time to hear what you have to say.

The most important thing to remember about subject lines in your healthcare email marketing, above all else, is that they are not headlines or sound bytes. These appeal to the intellect or humour only, whereas subject lines are more about focusing on individuals. Do your research, and you’ll know the right way to address these individuals – and in doing so know what is best to say, and how to provide what they want and need the most.

Multichannel Marketing Pharma

Topics: Multichannel Marketing, Content Marketing, HCP engagement, Medical Communications

COUCH Medcomms

At the risk of sounding too pretentious, at COUCH we consider ourselves storytellers first and foremost. And we are passionate in championing this approach to medical communications.

See more posts by COUCH Medcomms